Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover

Wanna transform some plain canvas shoes from Target into retro-fab kicks, and then break them in by traipsing all over St. Augustine, Florida with me?  Oh, goodie because that is exactly what I have on the docket for us today!

Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover: easy and entertaining tutorial by Lauren from

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would have never dared to tackle today’s project if it hadn’t been for Allison over at Dream a Little Bigger.

Do you know Allison?  If not, you should!  She is one of the most creative, out-of-the-box, and innovative crafters I have ever encountered in blogland…as well as one of the most prolific.  I’m proud to call her a friend!  Plus, she loves cats and frequently features them in her posts, so that’s an automatic IN for me.  We actually exchanged guest posts last year; do you recall the gorgeous Gold Shoe Makeover she shared with y’all?

Gold Shoe Makeover by Allison from Dream a Little Bigger

Gold Shoe Makeover by Allison from Dream a Little Bigger

Speaking of shoes, I have dubbed Ms. Allison the Queen of Shoe Makeovers.  I mean, the woman has over 60–yes, 60!–shoe makeovers under her belt.  So of course, her crafty coronation was a no brainer.  Click here to rummage through her shoe makeover gallery:

It was this very gallery of shoe makeover glory that inspired me to pick up a pair of gray canvas shoes at Target a few weeks ago with high hopes of giving them a makeover of my own.

Gray canvas shoes from Target...just yearning for a makeover! via

And it was Queen Allison I emailed when I ran into my first road-bump.

You see, I had a vision for these shoes: I wanted to cover them in bright white triangles, totally retro-80s style because I just can’t get enough of that decade.  However, my practice-run using a DIY foam stamp and some white fabric paint was a total fail.

Failed attempts...all part of the process of creativity!  via

So, the Queen gave me several suggestions for what I might try, one of them being to hand-draw my triangles using a fabric paint marker.  And although I was nervous as all get-out that I would completely ruin my sneax in the process, I gave it a go.  And you know what?  It was totally do-able.  Here’s how you can do it, too:



Step 1.  Space out your design using stickers.  I was really apprehensive about free-handing, so I rough-cut some triangles out of white vinyl and slapped them on my shoes to get a sense for spacing.  White shipping labels or even masking tape could work in a pinch.  This is really an optional step, but one I highly recommend!

Use white vinyl or masking tape to pre-plan your design via

Step 2.  Practice!  Now, I was really worried that the supposed “fine-tip” on my marker (which looked more like medium or large) was going to be tricky to work with, so I drew some test triangles inside the shoe; however in retrospect, I probably should have practiced on scrap canvas or blue jeans since the material would have been more similar.  I actually had zero bleeding when it came to drawing on the outside of the shoe; much better than my practice!

Deco Fabric Marker in White via

Practicing with the DecoFabric Marker via

Step 3.  Draw those triangles…slow and steady.  Even though my practice triangles were not looking promising, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and go for it.  I started on the back of the shoe and quickly found my rhythm, and removed one triangle sticker at a time as I worked my way all of the way around.  And then, onto shoe #2.

Tips for a Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover via

A few more tips n’ tricks I learned along the way:

  • Start by drawing the outline of your triangle a bit smaller than it will end up; you can easily make it bigger (and correct any inequities in the shape as you go) whereas you cannot make a big triangle smaller.  It seems obvious, but is oh so easy to forget.
  • I did struggle sometimes to get sharp triangle points using the fabric paint marker I did because the tip was rounded; however I found that if I lightly lifted the marker up off the canvas as I drew my outline, I could achieve a decently sharp corner.
  • Recognize that your triangles will be imperfect.  They will not be equal, so don’t fixate on making them perfectly equal.  Embrace their unique differences, and you’ll enjoy the process much more.  No one will notice the differences anyway!
  • Avoid going over seams or thread lines where possible.  (I broke this rule a few times for aesthetics, but it definitely was trickier to maintain a clean triangle shape in those cases.)
  • After your triangles have dried, go back over any that look like they need a second coat.
  • If your marker starts to dry up, depress the tip on a piece of scrap fabric or paper a few times to re-coat the tip with fabric paint.  But do a test triangle first to make sure you don’t accidentally release a huge blob of paint onto your shoe with your next mark!
  • Take this on when you are not in a rush; enjoy the slow, but steady process of drawing your triangles, and you’ll find it therapeutic.  I recommend background music, too!  Perhaps a lil Pandora?

And that, my friends, is it!  (Not half as intimidating as I first expected.)  Thanks again to Queen Allison for her sage wisdom with this project, and helping me figure out how to see it through to completion!

Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover: easy and entertaining tutorial by Lauren from

Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover: easy and entertaining tutorial by Lauren from

Breaking ’em in!

And these shoes were made for walkin’, and that’s just what they did!

Yesterday, Mark and I took a day trip to St. Augustine since I have never been, and it was one of Mark’s favorite spots to visit as a kid; I also seized the opportunity to break in my new (and improved!) retro canvas shoes!

Here are some of the places my shoes journeyed yesterday:

Retro Canvas Shoe Makeover: "These shoes were made for walking..." via

And since there’s even more to the city of St. Augustine than the pretty pathways, here are some of the sights we saw, as captured in photos by myself and Mark:

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

St. Augustine Beach

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Adventures in St. Augustine, FL via

Even though it was a scorcher, we had such a blast.  And I can’t help but think that my revamped footwear gave me an extra skip in my step!

Dear reader, I hope you have a glorious weekend–one that perhaps involves exploring a new city or tackling a fun craft project.  In fact, I’d love to know your weekend plans in the comments below.  Or if you’ve been to St. Augustine before, what were your favorite parts of your visit?  Anything we missed that we have to hit next time?

P.S.  Don’t forget to enter the $100 Blue Nile Giveaway happening right here, right now.

P.P.S.  I rather enjoy linking up my projects to these parties.


Lovely comments so far...

  1. says

    Those shoes are just so plain stinkin’ FUN! And they are so YOU :-) At first glance, I was totally thinking you used some kind of stencil (though not really sure how)…I was surprised to read they were freehanded! They definitely don’t look it. And we went to St. Augustine last May (in 90+ degree weather), it is such a beautiful town! Looks like you had a great day!

  2. says

    These are adorable! I’m always looking for fun ideas to refashion existing clothes. But I get nervous about totally screwing something up. I love that you just took the plunge! And your vacation photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    I love this makeover! How cool! Sadly, I am not a “shoes” gal – shocking, I know! haha but this is a really cute idea :)
    This weekend, I am kicking off my (slightly belated) Spring cleaning! I’m moving at the end of July, so now it’s time to start going through all those boxes again, getting rid of a bunch of stuff. Thankfully, the weather has been really dreary – perfect for some cleaning.
    Big hugs!

  4. says

    LOOOOOVE IT!!!!!! I just love it. I’m a shoes decor addicted! his is such a great idea to make some awesome shoes not only for my girl!. Woot!


  5. says

    Oh my gosh, I want those! I think your new calling should be designing shoes. LOL! But really, I think you have inspired me to try decorating some shoes!

  6. says

    Oh Lauren, you are just the bomb dot com!!! 😀 Thanks for the totally cute shoe tutorial, I may have to give that a try myself… Back in the 80’s my FAVE pair of Vans had a checkerboard pattern – wouldn’t that be a fun design to make?
    btw: I’ve always wanted to go to St. Augustine, thanks for “taking” me along with you today!

  7. Shelly Beth Grappe says

    For the painting mess makers, here is my tip. Using a cutting machine. Cut some a stencil of a series of shapes.If you do it on freezer paper and press the paper with an iron….the paint will not seep under the stenil.Practice first! Shelly B.
    Who does not scrap but who always messing with fiber of some sort!
    I have a pair of kelly green converse crying out for some itty bitty orange crabs or maybe navy anchors…or white sea gull silhouettes. PS I sue the cameo silhouettes for most of my doings!

  8. Karen Lewis says

    I loved going on that trip with you. It’s cloudy and chilly here so it was nice to be taken away. Love the picture of you two. And I have some old canvas shoes that I think I’ll doodle on.

  9. Mark says

    I had a great time remembering what we saw together yesterday. Favorite pictures: driveway: orlando, and fish cleaning at marina. Also enjoyed the “ruddy selfy” that shows how hot it was.

  10. says

    ohhhhh I have to try this! I bought the same kicks and a pair of white ones and I’ve been rocking them like cray. I can’t wait to give them a little facelift. Thanks for sharing the inspiration!

  11. Linda says

    Love St. Augustine, especially the old hotel at Flagler College and the café where the old swimming pool used to be! I’m having an equally fabulous weekend traipsing around Soho and other neighborhoods around the Lower East Side in NYC with friends – it i’s been 36 years since I’ve been here!

    I’d also point out that your last 3 comments (including mine) are from Linda’s/Lynda’s…what are the odds? :-)

  12. says

    Oh Lauren! These are just the cutest! I love the triangles a ridiculous amount and you totally nailed the design and the spacing! The white looks fabulous against that cool grey too! I love you photos of you road trip too, I have never been to Florida so it is soooo lovely to feel like I was actually there with you stopping for a cup of tea to admire your shoes! hehe! one day maybe! thanks so much for sharing! I may have to keep my eyes peeled for a cheap pair of pumps to try out a similar idea, maybe in button print! the possibilities are endless :)

  13. says

    Lauren these are completely ADORBS!! May have to try this and if I ever get around to posting about them I can say I learned from the Princess who learned from the Queen.
    St Augustine is so much fun – have not been there in years but this reminds me to take the boys soon!
    Pinned! xo

  14. Marmie says

    Love the retro look and how the triangles turned out! Grey and white was a genius choice! St. Augustine looks like a great place to visit…it’s now on my bucket list!

    Our weekend included a birthday celebration with friends, a weekend Vacation Bible School, and dinner out with more friends, (all fun things) plus test-grading (not so fun)! Thanks for this little refreshing get-away before returning to tackle more grading! :-) xxoo

  15. says

    You HAND PAINTED those? Woe…. Amaze! Like, seriously, I thought you used a stencil! I love them, and love that they look way cooler than their original plain grey. I wouldn’t be surprised if people started asking you where you got those cool kicks!
    Also, Florida has some pretty cool spots, huh? Love that you and Mark go exploring :)

  16. says

    I love the 80s vibe of your new kicks! I would be scared to try a shoe-makeover for fear I’d completely ruin a decent pair. Kudos for taking it on! And I’ve already bookmarked Allison’s site so I can check out all her shoe makeovers :)
    I’ve never been to St. Augustine, but my parents spent a few days there in January after our Disney trip. I’d love to go someday; I’m a sucker for old buildings & architecture!

  17. says

    These are absolutely adorable! I would love to make some with polkadots. I’m always nervous to take the plunge and get started on projects like this. Maybe your post will give me some courage. :) Love Saint Augustine. It’s right in my backyard and I hardly ever make it there. My little girl was in a wedding there last October – such a beautiful venue for a wedding, too!

    I’d be thrilled if you’d link up at this week’s Off the Hook!

    • says

      I was THIS close to going the polka dot route, but the day I was decorating them, I had an 80s vibe going on, so I just embraced it! But oh my, polka dots would be adorable! Yes, do give it a go, Lauren! Even if it ends up a total flop, you’re sure to enjoy the process. And how cool that your daughter got to be in a wedding in St. Augustine! I’m sure it was gorgeous and such a memorable event. Can’t wait to get back there soon….


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